Deputy City Governor Accused in Fatal Hotel Fall

Phnom Penh deputy governor Chreang Sophan, who owns the hotel where Poipet City military police commander Ham Muth died after falling down an empty elevator shaft, was on Wednesday accused of manslaughter by the municipal military police, with the case sent to the municipal court.

Ham Muth, 39, fell four floors to his death after returning at about 3 a.m. to the Midland Hotel in Tuol Kok district’s Boeng Kak I commune from a night of entertainment. He was found dead at the base of the shaft after his family noticed him missing from their room.

Phnom Penh deputy military police commander Colonel Pol Davy said the investigation into the death closed Wednesday and that the case had been submitted to the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, with the hotel’s owner accused of manslaughter under article 207 of the criminal code.

“The owner is Chreang Sophan, the deputy governor of Phnom Penh,” said Col. Davy, explaining that the military police believed the death to have been caused by the failure of hotel staff to fence off the entry to the unfinished elevator shaft.

“It is not a murder case,” he said.

Col. Davy added that Mr. Sophan is now working to “resolve” the case with the victim’s family but that the investigation carried out by military police had nevertheless been sent to the municipal court.

Reached by telephone, Mr. Sophan, who is the deputy municipal governor responsible for land management, urban planning and construction, declined to comment on the manslaughter accusation.

“You are not an authority assigned to question me like this,” he said. “Which military police officer said that? Please ask him to call me.”

“Such an allegation is just a matter raised by The Cambodia Daily newspaper,” Mr. Sophan continued. “You cannot call and interrogate me.”

According to article 207 of the criminal code, manslaughter is punishable by one to three years in prison. It is defined as an act causing the death of a person through either “negligence, recklessness, or carelessness” or through a “breach of safety requirements or due diligence as imposed by the law.”

Ham Muth was found dead at the Midland Hotel just after 5 a.m. Tuesday wearing only a pair of black underpants. Surveillance footage posted to the Deum Ampil news website later that day showed him exiting his room in the underpants and then pacing the hall.

The footage did not show him falling into the unguarded elevator shaft, and was timestamped 8:49 a.m. Saturday, but hotel staff said that the footage of Ham Muth was from early Tuesday, shortly before his death.

A man who answered Ham Muth’s telephone Wednesday said that funeral proceedings for the commander had begun at his house in Poipet City and that he will be cremated in a ceremony on Sunday.

The man, who claimed to be a colleague of Ham Muth but identified himself only by his nickname Trodork, said from the funeral that Ham Muth always stayed at the Midland Hotel when he traveled to Phnom Penh.

(Additional reporting by Phann Ana)

[email protected]

Related Stories

Latest News

The Weekly DispatchA new weekly newsletter from The Cambodia Daily delivering news, analysis and opinion to your inbox. Published every Friday at 11:30am. Sign up today.